Ovechkin again leaves us hanging at Games

February, 18, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Now, it wouldn't be the Olympics if someone wasn't in a snit.

And in the pantheon of snit-sters, the media rank far down the great "Who cares if they're ticked off?" list.

Still, the NHL's best and brightest stars have been on the ground in Vancouver for at least three full days, and what do we know of the great Alex Ovechkin?

Well, virtually nothing because the man has become a ghost.

If only the Washington Capitals' crack PR staff had been assigned to Ovechkin and the Russian national team. We're pretty sure there wouldn't be any carping. But it isn't, and repeated requests for Ovechkin from the national media have fallen pretty much on deaf ears.

Now, the Olympics are a tricky business, between rights holders and who gets to stand where and who has to talk to whom first in the mixed zones (the penned areas where the media are held like much livestock -- discuss amongst yourselves).

But the Russians, or Ovechkin himself, have decided to behave in a manner that is decidedly un-Olympic, speaking almost exclusively to the Russian media (we get that) and generally ignoring the rest of us (which we don't).

Now, we're not suggesting Ovechkin is Socrates on skates and we're all the poorer for not knowing how he feels about the lines at the Hudson's Bay Company or the ticket fiasco here or the food at the athletes' village. But it shouldn't be this big a hassle to get in front of a player who is arguably the best in the world playing in the world's biggest tournament … should it?

Ovechkin sent minor shock waves through the hockey world in September when he told ESPN.com if the NHL wasn't going to go to the Sochi Games in 2014, he'd take his pucks and go home for the tournament on his own. He clearly feels strongly about the Olympics and specifically about playing for his country on his home soil. We applaud that.

So, what gives here in Vancouver?

Blowing off reporters in the mixed zone in general, as he did after Tuesday's 8-2 romp over Latvia, or tossing off a couple of half-hearted answers in the days leading up to the tournament and then declining to come to the main hockey venue Wednesday makes Ovechkin look like a child. It also makes his supposed passion for the Olympics in Sochi appear contrived and self-serving.

My snit is nearly over …

We say this in closing, and with a high level of confidence: Sidney Crosby would never behave this way; nor would Peter Forsberg or Patrick Kane. Something to think about.

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer


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